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Please Don't Write off the Southern Centrists (We Do Still Exist)
November 15, 2003
By Rush Roberts

Editor's Note: Democratic Underground welcomes articles promoting individual Democratic candidates for political office. Publication of these articles does not imply endorsement of any candidate by the editors of Democratic Underground.

Democrats pride themselves on being the Party of Diversity. I consider this a good thing. Of late, they have also made a name for themselves as being The Party That Stands Up To Insane Greed-heads, which I think is even better. It is about time.

If there is one issue that all nine candidates can agree on, it is the simple fact that George W. Bush is a "miserable failure" as a president. (Thanks, Dick G.) They even agree on the basic reason: he has been economically unethical. He has wasted billions of dollars and hundreds, nay, thousands, of lives on a pretentious war that need never have been started. To those of us who can see the facts, the failure seems obvious. So why do so many Americans still like this absurdly ignorant puppet of the Right Wing who is defiling the White House? Because the "liberal media" portrays him as some sort of unifying war leader, that's why. Right. But that is worthy of an entirely different article, and I leave it to those who know much more about the history of bad presidents than I do. I am only twenty-five years old. I am regularly laid-off, only to be seduced back by another 50 cents an hour raise. By the way, I have a college degree from the university that houses Bush, Sr.'s Presidential Library.

Right. Off track. What seems important now is what is the now and here. My state got hijacked by a corporate-welfare child of a Northern Congressman/Vice-President/President, and next thing I know, to declare yourself a Democrat is virtually social suicide. A trend that has swept the entire Reconstructed South Proper. (Where have ye gone, Bob Bullock?) I am from Texas, by the way, and last night I just purchased a bumper sticker at my local record store (bless their hearts, they display a sign that reads: 'support small businesses: the backbone of America'. Amen.) The sticker reads: "read my lips: no new Texans." The message is not anti-new-Texans, but anti-People-Who-Claim-to-Be-From-Texas-and-Greatly-Disappoint-Real-Texans.

A leader emerged in 1992, but despite two successful terms his personal indiscretions provided the desperate right-wingers with enough fodder to fuel a popular anger and resentment based on "morality". As the millennium changed, so did the American Public's idea of what was required of a president. Four years later, it is my hope that they've realized their mistake.

I've noticed the trend here on DU of columnists embracing candidates who they thought were 'unpopular'. And almost always it is Dennis Kucinich. I am going to do the same, but tread on unexplored territory: my candidate is John Edwards.

Dennis Kucinich is a brave man with an enormous heart. I honestly respect what he has done both as mayor of Cleveland and a U.S. Congressman. But he has no prayer of even earning a nomination. Perhaps John Edwards doesn't either. But I am as willing to follow him into the fire as others are to follow Kucinich, or Dean, or Kerry.

Southern is an important word nowadays in our political vocabulary. It implies hardship, struggles for equality, and new hope. At least in one party it does. In the other party it implies "easy victory" and "patriotism". Southern Democrats were for a time the most powerful factor in our nation. Granted, this was during one of the ugliest parts of our history and for the most part they were on the other side of the fence; but then again, Republicans used to be in favor of equal rights and the right to organize. Ideologies may sway, as does the moment, but the power of emotion never does. (Take Senator Byrd. I despise his opposition to Civil Rights, but I could embrace him when I see him on CSPAN reciting the Constitution shakily by heart and denouncing Señor Flightsuit's abhorrent policies.)

So, what I'm trying to say in a roundabout way is that John Edwards can do what probably only one other candidate can do: carry the South. And please do not dismiss the South as unimportant. Florida aside, the only other deep south states to vote Democratic in the past three elections were Louisiana and Georgia. My state of Texas has not voted Democratic since Johnson. And this is wrong. Southerners have more to benefit than any other region: health care, equality, educationů the list goes on and on into a heap of Republican fear-induced rhetoric.

Bottom line: if a candidate cannot carry at least two or three Southern states, he will not win. No matter what. I hope I am wrong, but I fear I am not. John Edwards was born poor and worked his way through college, becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college. This is the American Dream that Republicans like to harp on but never facilitate. He went on to fight for patients' rights in healthcare court battles for a quarter-century. Then he went to the Senate and did the same. He beat an incumbent to take the Senate seat, no small feat in the South for a Democrat. Why not listen to him?

Of course he is evasive, groomed, even non-committal at times. But hey people, wake up: he is a politician. It's his job. Republicans like to paint him as a lawyer. Fine. What they seem to forget is that half of all lawyers in court are good people. I'd much rather have someone who fought for the so-called "Little Man" than someone who has spent their entire life fighting for the Large Corporations, as Señor Flightsuit has.

I am dedicated. I am not such a proud person that I will refuse to vote if my candidate is not elected. I will vote for whomever gets the Democratic nomination. But not everyone will, particularly in the South.

Lastly, there is something that virtually no one knows about John Edwards that made me like him when I first heard about him over a year ago. When you hear him speak about the losses that people have suffered at the hands of this bogus war, please don't discount him. He honestly knows what he is talking about. This man lost a son several years ago. A son who would be roughly my age right now, and probably struggling to find permanent employment as I am. A son who was killed in a car accident because of high winds. He could have sued automakers and maybe he would have won. But he didn't. He took this pill that life gave him and swallowed it, convinced that it would make him a stronger person. And it has. He is. He is a lawyer, but he knows where to draw the line.

The first time I heard about John Edwards was on Dennis Miller Live, ironically. I used to love to watch that damned show, when Miller was a moderate. It was from a man who vehemently denounced Clinton and insisted on drinking Scotch and smoking a cigarette on air. Christopher Hitchens was the guest, and he spoke very highly of Edwards because he had championed the case of a girl who had been sucked into a pool drain and suffered greatly but had been kept alive by the verdict that Edwards had won. Hitchens has been a verbal critic of Clinton, and yet he went out on a limb so early as 2001 to embrace Edwards for his work for the common man. He believed Edwards should have been chosen as Gore's running-mate (as he was a close second).

Bottom line? Think more. Don't believe everything you read in the press, but at the same time, look for the underlying story. A tall order for modern Americans, yes. We have become so comfortable with pre-packaged goods. But for the good of your own nation, I beg you as a fellow-voter, an unemployed what-not, a Texan in Desperation: Don't vote for the simpleton from Yale. Vote for the cunning lawyer from North Carolina State. I meanů how refreshing would it be to have a president who wasn't from the Ivy League or Oxford? I'm not sure if Edwards is a golfer or not. But imagine he isn't. How refreshing would that be? I leave you deep in thought, but think of this: Clinton was a Southern Centrist in 1992. History has a habit of repeating itself. Lets keep the trend alive.

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